The Forest Stewardship Council
A forester marks a tree for harvest. How does she choose? Does she only consider that tree and its contribution to this period's profit? Or, does she also consider the forest and its contribution to the future?
I have worked in the woods of East Texas and Arkansas and have seen the difference between these approaches, the difference between mining and stewardship. It is not necessary to despoil a forest to harvest wood. It is possible to harvest wood from a forest continuously while ever improving its health and yield. It is possible — and from my perspective as a citizen, furniture maker, woodsman, and aerobic organism — imperative. A healthy forest has many species, plant and animal, many ages, stable waterways, and sustains communities with a steady, reliable harvest of wood and other products.
Photo by permission of The Collins Company.
In 1993, a group of industry, community, and environmental groups from 25 countries founded an organization: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)®. The Council developed standards for managing healthy forests and a system to verify to people that the wood they buy comes from healthy, well-managed forests.
The Council, in its Principles and Criteria, defined responsible forestry anywhere on the earth — tropical, temperate, or boreal. The Principles and Criteria address ecological, social, and economic aspects of forest management. Using this document, regional working groups, working under national committees, establish standards for the type of forest in their area. For example, in the U.S. the standards for the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest will be different from the standards for the pine, oak, and gum forests of the South, but both sets of standards will include the Principles and Criteria.
(Click here to see an FSC brochure explaining their mission. Note this is a PDF file.)
The Council accredits independent third parties to certify that the management of any particular forest complies with all standards. Forest owners and managers can develop plans for tracts of timberland that fulfill the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council and apply for certification with one of the certifiers. The certifier reviews the management plan for the forest and conducts regular audits of operations on the ground, in the woods. Wood from these forests can be labeled as FSC Certified.
This system also follows the wood to its final product through a chain of custody. We were "chain of custody" certified from 1998 to 2015, so that we could attach an FSC logo to our furniture built of certified wood. Once a year, an auditor came to our shop to verify that the wood in our furniture marked as FSC could be traced back to a certified forest.
We were one of the earliest FSC certified companies. We remain committed to forest stewardship, but cannot justify the ever increasing costs of certification. Early on, around 2000, people expressed an interest in FSC certification of their furniture. Almost no one has done so for years. I consider this a failing of the Forest Stewardship Council. They have placed emphasis on promoting certification in the building and paper industries with significant success, but not in furniture making. It made me sad to drop the certification.
The lack of certification does not change our commitment to forest stewardship or our lumber buying habits. We just can't use the logo anymore. We buy certified lumber so we know the wood was harvested from land that can yield wood and lumber for generations by methods that protect wildlife, waterways, and local economies. This is fundamental to who we are.
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